Julie’s Jar: Fuel of Faith

A single taper candle is lit against a dark background.

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances,” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). In ALL circumstances? No one I know has given thanks for 2020, as if a year has any power over human destiny. We’ve even managed to scapegoat time!

Paul is exhorting the Christians in Thessolonica to do much more than sort for the positive: He is pressing them to actually give thanks, regardless of the circumstance, even in the very circumstances in which they find themselves. This is what it means to cultivate hope, and hope needs the fuel of faith to stay lit.

When faced with a crisis, a season of trouble in my life, my go-to response is “What am I learning? What can I learn?” There is much in this season of trial and tribulation that I am learning and much to give thanks for:

  • Because our former Office Administrators, Tim Reed and Rafael Reyes, brought our virtual presence into the 21st century, FCC Pomona was able to make a pretty painless pivot to being a virtual community when we could not meet in person.
  • Because our virtual presence is amplified, new people are engaged in our ministry of learning, fellowship and service, including people in Orange County, Texas, N. Cal., Massachusetts, and New Jersey!
  • Because people new to FCC Pomona are feeling connected to our community of faith, many are making regular financial contributions to our shared ministry.
  • The financial support of those who used to gather in the sanctuary remains strong; evidence of your faithfulness to our shared ministry is apparent.
  • More people than I’ve ever seen in my 30+ years at the church are participating in Bible Study, conversations about faith, prayer service, and contemplative practice. 30 people came to Bible Study! When was the last time THAT happened?
  • Our participation in Inland Communities Organizing Network (ICON) has given us a front row seat to being a primary initiator of bringing together the community in a Stop the Spread strategy to save lives. Pomona Unified School District (PUSD) Superintendent Martinez and Mayor Sandoval both publicly thanked ICON leaders for all the behind-the-scenes work we are doing. This is what comes from strong institutions that are embedded in their communities.
  • Our Child Development Center (CDC) has new leadership that is riding the wave of uncertainty with amazing expertise. The co-directors, Brenda Solarzano and Liliana Vasquez, stepped into leadership during a storm and are navigating like experienced leaders.
  • The leaders of our congregation, the Board, Elders, Diaconate, CDC Board, and Program Cabinet, have been diligent in their duties, even imagining new ways to strengthen our own faith community.
  • We’ve welcomed 6 new members in 2020, even though we were not in the sanctuary.
  • I did not delete a page from the website when I edited it! (Whew!)

Before you throw 2020 under the bus, pause and remember the moments of grace and hope you were given. As Paul wrote, “Do not quench the Spirit,” (1 Thessalonians 5:19). God’s Spirit of grace and encouragement is found in the thanks we find.

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